26 Oct 2018

Do You Know the Difference Between Styrian and Commercial Pumpkins?

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Styrian Pumpkins Are Prized For Their Pumpkin Seeds

The seasonal link between pumpkins and the fall holidays is not limited to North America. In Austria, pumpkins also take center stage during the autumn harvest season.  But there are fundamental differences between the orange commercial pumpkins you may be familiar with and the yellow, orange and green pumpkins that the Styrian region of southeastern Austria is famous for. Styrian pumpkins probably aren’t the ones you are carving for Halloween but they are the best source for pumpkin seeds.

The unique nature of Cucurbita pepo, the Styrian Pumpkin, is the result of a single mutation that occurred in the 19th century. This mutation led to dark green seeds with thin outer shells. These seeds largely define the Styrian pumpkin and the result is a pumpkin that is prized for its superior health benefits and culinary versatility. There are big differences between the pumpkin seeds you extract from a jack o’ lantern and the prized Styrian pumpkin seeds of Austria. [i]

What Makes Styrian Pumpkins Superior to Commercial Pumpkins?

Unlike commercial pumpkin seeds, which are encased in a tough shell, the seed of the Styrian pumpkin is entirely edible. The lack of a shell made processing the seed into an oil less labor intensive. About 5 pumpkins are needed to make a cup of the oil. Without the tedious task of dehulling the shells, traditional processing of the Styrian pumpkins requires little more than an axe to split open the pumpkin and warm millstones to roast and press the seeds on. The widespread availability of such implements explains why Styrian pumpkin seed oil caught on so quickly in its native Austria.[ii]

The ease of processing has led to the rapid expansion of Styrian pumpkin seed oil, first as a regional food staple and today as a functional food powerhouse. Superior cold pressing techniques are now available but the fundamentals strengths of Styrian pumpkin oil remain unchanged.

The Best Pumpkin Seed Oil

Styrian pumpkin oil is dark green and viscous, but the seeds can also be eaten raw or roasted. The oil’s dark green appearance visibly distinguishes but it’s advantages over lighter colored commercial pumpkin oils are far from superficial. Styrian pumpkin seed oil has been the subject of considerable research and has shown great promise. Keep mind, the benefits of Styrian pumpkin seed oil do not always apply to standard pumpkin seeds.

Styrian pumpkin seed oil is naturally edible. It is not considered a virgin oil because of the initial processing involved, although no further refining is required after the first step. Even today, the best Styrian pumpkin seed oils are cold pressed or stamped using the traditional methods. Unlike some cooking oils, the phytochemical integrity of the raw pumpkin seeds is retained in the oil.[iii]

The Styrian pumpkin has a unique nutritional composition. The pressed oil is an excellent source of essential fatty acids, vitamin E, phytosterols, phenolic compounds, chlorophyll, plant sterols and vital minerals. It has been shown to support healthy digestion as well as skin, nails and hair.

A Nutritional Powerhouse and Culinary Delight

The ease of extracting oil from hulless seeds and rich nutritional content are only part of the appeal of Styrian pumpkin seed oil. Simply put, it is a delicious oil that is incredibly versatile. Austrians use pumpkin seed oil in much the same way as some Mediterranean regions use olive oil, it is slathered on nearly everything. The Styrian pumpkin has become more widespread in Europe as the value of its pumpkin seeds has become more widely know.

Styrian pumpkin seed oil has a nutty flavor and works well with creamy soups, especially those that already contain squash or pumpkin. It is aromatic, viscous and as prized by Austrians as truffles are by the French. It has a buttery mouth feel and can be drizzled on pastas or salads. Styrian pumpkin seed oil only became widely available in specialty food stores in the US about 20 years ago, and demand is sure to increase as more people become familiar with its smooth taste and stunning health benefits.[iv]

 

[i] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227808556_Production_technology_and_characteristics_of_Styrian_pumpkin_seed_oil

[ii] https://www.nytimes.com/1998/02/04/dining/a-regional-taste-travels-well-austrian-pumpkinseed-oil.html

[iii] https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jf400314j

[iv] https://www.nytimes.com/1998/02/04/dining/a-regional-taste-travels-well-austrian-pumpkinseed-oil.html

 

 

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